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Sexological Bodywork and Surrogate Partner Therapy

You may or may not have noticed, but I wear a lot of hats. Among the things I do is speak on panels as a volunteer with the Center for Positive Sexuality doing outreach education at universities and trainings with professionals. One of the panels I’m on is the Sex Worker panel. I’m always happy to talk about sexological bodywork because not many people know about this field. I’m also glad to show the students that Sexological Bodywork is still a form of sex work which is legal in California and some other places. I don’t think that just because SexBod is more recognized, that it’s more legitimate, and certainly it’s not better than another form of sex work.

In the end, all sex work, whether it’s Sexological Bodywork, Surrogate Partner Therapy (which I will talk about below), escorting, dancing, cam work, porn, and on and on, is about validating a person’s sexuality and being compassionate. 

I went through the USA Sexological Bodywork training in 2013. Sexological Bodywork is a modality of hands-on sex education, where we use conscious breath, movement, sound, and touch to either move through sources of sexual concern, and/or to go deeper into the pleasure we can experience from head to toe.

In Sexological Bodywork the practitioner always remains clothed, the touch is one way (the practitioner touching only, not the other way around), and gloves are used, particularly for genital touch.

We try to encourage clients to have a minimum of 3-5 sessions to start seeing some changes. We set intentions rather than goals necessarily.

I wouldn’t say the SexBod is devoid of intimacy. It’s incredibly intimate (not to mention vulnerable) to share with another person elements of their sexuality, touch, and sensuality. However, unlike Surrogate Partner Therapy it is very much guided by the client, but the bodyworker is a facilitator or a guide to help people unpack and shed what no longer serves them.

SPT Triadic ModelSurrogate Partner Therapy is a modality which teaches intimacy and relational skills in a triadic model: Client – Surrogate Partner – and Talk Therapist.

The movie The Sessions with Helen Hunt, who portrays real life Surrogate Partner Cheryl Cohen Greene, is a mainstream example of Surrogate Partner Therapy from the point of view of the client (and keeping in mind that it is still a movie).

In some cases the Surrogate Partner does have sex with their client, but if or when that occurs it is much farther down the line. It’s much more about learning to relate, helping a client become comfortable looking at a person while talking to them, to learn ways to give and receive a variety of touch, to take their time, and to learn communication. Check ins with the Talk Therapist are crucial in Surrogate Partner Therapy.

In essence, a Surrogate Partner is having a relationship with the client for a period of time. It teaches the person how to have a relationship with a beginning, middle, and healthy end.

Here are links to various associations and directories for SexBod and SPT (useful both if you are looking to attend a training and if you are looking to experience this work with a practitioner):

Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers (ACSB)

International Surrogate Partner Association

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